Death of a Syndicate: The Bad Economy Hurt DBR Media

By: Dave Astor

The faltering economy was a major reason for the demise of DBR Media.

As reported on this Web site Thursday, the Florida-based syndicate ended operations last week after eight years. E&P caught up with DBR Vice President of Editorial Operations Diane Eckert for a phone interview today.

She said some of DBR’s 400-plus, mostly-weekly-newspaper clients could no longer afford to pay the syndicate. “That became even more of a problem during the past two years,” noted Eckert, who said a number of papers still owe DBR money. “It wasn’t economically feasible for us to continue.”

Ironically, Eckert wonders if DBR set its prices too low when the syndicate launched in the better economic climate of the year 2000.

Prior to 2000, Eckert and fellow DBR executive Brad Elson had worked for the King Features Weekly Service, which targets a clientele similar to DBR’s. Eckert observed that KFWS had and has the economic advantage of being owned by a large corporation (Hearst) while DBR was independent.

“I’m proud of the fact that we made it for eight years,” Eckert said of DBR — whose initials stand for the first names of her, Elson, and late KFWS executive Richard Wilson.

DBR had more than 50 features (columns, cartoons, puzzles, etc.) in its package. This content was distributed to about 450 papers at DBR’s peak, with the list having dropped to about 400 when the syndicate ceased operations last week.

“We had some great clients who were so loyal,” Eckert said. “Some were with us for the entire eight years. They’re very disappointed, and I’m very disappointed.”

A number of clients will continue to use content that had been distributed by DBR. Eckert explained that several now-former DBR creators will self-syndicate their features to those newspapers.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better group of people,” she said of DBR’s creators.

Eckert herself wrote many DBR columns (about politics, seniors, TV, pets, and other topics) in addition to editing features and helping to run the syndicate.

“I did a lot,” Eckert said wryly, but added quickly that she enjoyed her eight years with DBR: “Overall, it was very positive. It was definitely quite a life experience I’ll never forget.”

Eckert plans to continue column writing, but the exact nature of what she’ll do hasn’t been finalized yet.

Last Thursday’s E&P story about DBR can be seen here.

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